"Beatlemania" hits the U.S.
Beatlemania was the fanaticism surrounding the English rock band the Beatles in the 1960s. The group's popularity grew in the United Kingdom throughout 1963, propelled by the singles "Please Please Me", "From Me to You" and "She Loves You". By October, the press adopted the term "Beatlemania" to describe the scenes of adulation that attended the band's concert performances. From the start of 1964, their world tours were characterized by the same levels of hysteria and high-pitched screaming by female fans, both at concerts and during the group's travels. Commentators likened the intensity of this adulation to a religious fervor and to a female masturbation fantasy. Among the displays of deity-like worship, fans would approach the band in the belief that they possessed supernatural healing powers.
In February 1964, the Beatles arrived in the United States and their televised performances on The Ed Sullivan Show were viewed by approximately 73 million people. There, the band's instant popularity established their international stature, and their unprecedented domination of the national sales charts was mirrored in numerous other countries. Their August 1965 concert at New York's Shea Stadium marked the first time that a large outdoor stadium was used for such a purpose, and with an audience of 55,000, set records for attendance and revenue generation. To protect them from their fans, the Beatles typically travelled to these concerts by armored car. From the end of that year, the band embraced promo clips for their singles to avoid the difficulties of making personal appearances on television programs. Their December 1965 album Rubber Soul marked a profound change in the dynamic between fans and artists, asmany Beatles fans sought to appreciate the progressive quality in the band's look, lyrics and sound.
On February 7, 1964, Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London Heathrow lands at New York’s Kennedy Airport - and “Beatlemania” arrives. It was the first visit to the United States by the Beatles, a British rock-and-roll quartet that had just scored its first No. 1 U.S. hit six days before with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” At Kennedy, the “Fab Four” - dressed in mod suits and sporting their trademark pudding bowl haircuts arrived to New York's newly renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport, they were greeted by a crowd of 4,000 Beatles fans and 200 journalists. A few people in the crowd were injured, and the airport had not previously experienced such a large crowd.
Two days later, Paul McCartney, age 21, Ringo Starr, 23, John Lennon, 23, and George Harrison, 20, made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, a popular television variety show. Although it was difficult to hear the performance over the screams of teenage girls in the studio audience, an estimated 73 million U.S. television viewers, or about 40 percent of the U.S. population, tuned in to watch. Sullivan immediately booked the Beatles for two more appearances that month. The group made their first public concert appearance in the United States on February 11 at the Coliseum in Washington, D.C., and 20,000 fans attended. The next day, they gave two back-to-back performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and police were forced to close off the streets around the venerable music hall because of fan hysteria. On February 22, the Beatles returned to England.
In advance of the Beatles' arrival in the US, Time magazine reported that the "raucous sound" of the band's screaming fans made their concerts "slightly orgiastic". "Sociologists noted that witnessing a pop group provoked orgasms amongst girls too young to understand what they were feeling." David Holbrook wrote in the New Statesman that it was "painfully clear that the Beatles are a masturbation fantasy, such as a girl presumably has during the onanistic act – the genial smiling young male images, the music like a buzzing of the blood in the head, the rhythm, the cries, the shouted names, the climaxes."
Among the passengers with the Beatles on their first trip to the US as a band, was Phil Spector and an entourage of photographers and journalists. The band held a press conference where they met disc jockey Murray the K, then they were put into four limousines (one per Beatle) and driven to New York City. On the way, McCartney turned on a radio and listened to a running commentary: "They have just left the airport and are coming to New York City." When they reached the Plaza Hotel, they were besieged by fans and reporters. Author André Millard, writing in his book Beatlemania: Technology, Business, and Teen Culture in Cold War America, says that it was this constant fan presence – outside the band's hotels, UK residences, and recording studios – that gave Beatlemania an "extra dimension that lifted it above all other incidents of fan worship".
The Beatles performed their first American concert on February 11 at Washington Coliseum, a sports arena in Washington, DC, attended by 8,000. They performed a second concert the next day at New York's Carnegie Hall, which was attended by 2,000, and both concerts were well received. The Beatles then flew to Miami Beach and made their second television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 16, which was broadcast live from the Napoleon Ballroom of the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach with another 70 million viewers. On February 22, the Beatles returned to the UK and arrived at Heathrow airport at 7 am, where they were met by an estimated 10,000 fans.
An article in The New York Times Magazine described Beatlemania as a "religion of teenage culture" that was indicative of how American youth now looked to their own age group for social values and role models. The US had been in mourning, fear and disbelief over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963, and contemporary pundits identified a link between the public shock and the adulation afforded the Beatles eleven weeks later. According to these writers, the Beatles reignited the sense of excitement and possibility that had faded in the wake of the assassination. Other factors cited included the threat of nuclear war, racial tensions in the US, and reports of the country's increased involvement in the Vietnam War.
The first Beatles album issued by Capitol, Meet the Beatles, hit number one on the Billboard Top LPs chart (later the Billboard 200) on February 15, and it maintained that position for 11 weeks of its 74-week chart stay. On April 4, the group occupied the top five US single chart positions, as well as 11 other positions in the Billboard Hot 100. As of 2013, they remained the only act to have done so, having also broken 11 other chart records on the Hot 100 and the Billboard 200. Author David Szatmary states, "In the nine days, during the Beatles' brief visit, Americans had bought more than two million Beatles records and more than $2.5 million dollars worth of Beatles-related goods." The Beatles' Second Album on Capitol topped the charts on May 2 and kept its peak for five weeks of its 55-week chart stay.
In 1966, John Lennon controversially remarked that the group had become "more popular than Jesus". Soon afterwards, when the Beatles toured Japan, the Philippines and the US, they were entangled in mob revolt, violence, political backlash and threats of assassination. Frustrated by the restrictions of Beatlemania and unable to hear themselves play above their fans' screams, the group stopped touring and became a studio-only band. Their popularity and influence expanded in various social and political arenas, while Beatlemania continued on a reduced scale from then and into the members' solo careers.
Beatlemania surpassed any previous examples of fan worship in its intensity and scope. Initially, the fans were predominantly young adolescent females, sometimes called "teenyboppers", and their behavior was scorned by many commentators, particularly conservatives. By 1965, their fanbase included listeners who traditionally shunned youth-driven pop culture, which helped bridge divisions between folk and rock enthusiasts. During the 1960s, Beatlemania was the subject of analysis by psychologists and sociologists; a 1997 study recognized the phenomenon as an early demonstration of proto-feminist girl power. The receptions of subsequent pop acts – particularly boy bands – have drawn comparisons to Beatlemania, although none have replicated the breadth and depth of the Beatles' fandom nor its cultural impact.
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